I am Bajan. I mek light dumplings, eat flying fish that come from Trinidad, and drink cocoa tea.
There are still many things that we do and say that are authentically Bajan. We boil our dumplings and make them light. Jamaicans fry their dumplings. But, there are other parts of culture — values and customs — that are not so clearly identifiable.
These sounds of “tuk” are themes of our identity that must be revisited, retold, retained, and respected, otherwise the continual disappearance of the boundaries that once isolated and protected a country’s culture, will place the identity of the community, at risk.
So here is another story.
About three years ago, at church, I met one of the customer service representatives who walked and talked like a Bajan knight, who recited the names of several Bajan cricketers and playing fields, and, who went to school in Barbados and Trinidad.
Recently, after the 8:30 a.m. service, our paths crossed in the bookstore. Frederick Hall was at his post — the second for the day — managing the flow of the line to the registers. He was shifting his weight from his left foot, unto his right foot, and back again. Clearly, something was afoot.
At one point, he stretched his right foot, and revealed the razor sharp seam of his fawn pants, a hallmark of one who dresses well. Freddie was more than that. He was well dressed and as usual was wearing well tailored suits with matching ties and shoes.
I then asked him: “Where do you shop?”
Listen to his response:
“To be honest, I don’t have a specific place to shop. Most of my suits are tailored. My thing is simply this: whatever you do, you must have pride in it. That’s all I know. But I will still say thank you.”
Freddie had just restated in part, our motto — Pride and Industry. A feature which is mandated for all Christian Culture Centre church workers, and who must complete extensive training courses before performing any duty in the church.
When he wrote his name and address for me, the shapes of the letters F, M, and L all had the flourish of the handwriting that was taught in Bajan primary schools.
Freddie, is a first cousin of Sir Wes. He is from Fairfield land, Tudor Bridge, St. Michael and like Sir Wes, received his primary education at Wesley Hall Boys School. He immigrated to Trinidad with his parents and attended Mucara Boys, a Roman Catholic High school.
Freddie, who is tall and athletic, stated that his big dream was to play cricket for the West Indies. He has fond memories of playing cricket for WIBIX and recalled how for additional practice, he went to Queen’s Park on evenings and practised with the Police and Spartan cricket teams.
Listen to another part of his story:
“Look, I played cricket with Tall Boy (Norman Holder) and “Blimme” Francis. And then you had at Police – the Bradshaws, Oliver Broome, and Maxwell. At that time, Rock was playing for Empire and Victor Jemmott at Spartan. In Trinidad I was coached by Joey Carew and Sir Frank.”
He paused and directed another three persons unto the line. Then, spoke of the contribution and work of Sir Wes in Trinidad, including the Wesley Hall League and another programme for poor kids.
Now listen to Sir Wes, from his Cane Garden, St. Thomas, home:
“Freddie is my cousin. He is good people. The programme for kids of which he speaks was formed by Father Pantin and me. It is called SERVOL and unfortunately very few Barbadians are aware of the work which I did in Trinidad. One day soon, the story of the contribution of West Indian cricketers will be told.”
According to a current UNESCO website we now know:
“Service Volunteered for All is a community development, social empowerment and educational NGO that emerged during the social upheavals of the 1970s in Trinidad and Tobago.
“The entrenched structural socio-economic inequalities and the resultant deplorable living conditions and high unemployment and poverty rates among the poor majority (which had partly precipitated the social upheavals of the 1970s) prompted Fr. Gerard Pantin, a Roman Catholic priest and Mr. Wes Hall, a Barbadian cricketer, to establish SERVOL.
“Since then, SERVOL has been implementing intergenerational, family and community-based life and vocational skills training, enterprise development, psychosocial counselling, educational and empowerment projects in disadvantaged and marginalised urban and rural communities.”
Freddie is not the only well dressed service represented at Christian Culture Centre, a Brooklyn Mega Church. Nor is he the only one who exhibits pride in what he does. There are many other Caribbean and Barbadians who attend this church. What is significant is the importance that is attached to understanding of and the role of culture.
It is therefore no accident that the church has grown from a small church in a garage to 30,000 members in 35 years. We sing our anthem daily. For how long will its words fall on deaf ears? When will we see evidence of our motto in everything that we do?